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Category Archives: Covert Action

The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television

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Friday, April 17, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Though everyone would surely prefer otherwise, public relations crises are part of the CIA’s ordinary business. The fact that so much of its work is classified puts the Agency in one of those tricky, plumber-like governmental roles: when it does its job right, no one should notice. But when it screws up, there’s a mess, . . .
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U.S. Support for the Saudi Air Campaign in Yemen: The Legal Issues

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 3:02 PM

For the past couple of weeks, a Saudi-led coalition has been engaged in a substantial air campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen. The United States is not conducting its own air strikes against the Houthis, but it is providing various forms of material and intelligence support to the coalition, including armaments, air-to-air refueling services, satellite . . .
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Open Society Justice Initiative Issues New Report on U.S. Drone Strikes in Yemen

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 3:16 PM

The Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) has released a new report that documents civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen. According to the authors, the report, entitled Death By Drone, uses nine case studies to explore whether the Obama administration kept its promise that “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” . . .
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Live: CIA Director John Brennan Speaks at CFR

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Friday, March 13, 2015 at 12:49 PM

At 1:00 pm, CIA Director John Brennan will speak at the Council on Foreign Relations on the agency’s strategy for strengthening intelligence-gathering capabilities and how the agency will be restructured in order to accomplish those goals. You can watch the speech below:

The Equation Group’s Sophisticated Hacking and Exploitation Tools

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 12:31 PM

This week, Kaspersky Labs published detailed information on what it calls the Equation Group — almost certainly the NSA — and its abilities to embed spyware deep inside computers, gaining pretty much total control of those computers while maintaining persistence in the face of reboots, operating system reinstalls, and commercial anti-virus products. The details are . . .
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The Legal Basis for the Mughniyah Killing

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Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 1:30 PM

The Washington Post and Newsweek report that the CIA in 2008 worked with Israel’s Mossad to kill Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s operations chief, in Damascus, Syria.  The Post says that Mughniyah “had been implicated in the killing of hundreds of Americans, stretching back to the embassy bombing in Beirut [in 1983] that killed 63 people, including . . .
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Thoughts on the SSCI Report, Part II: The Program’s Brutality

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Friday, December 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM

I want to begin my review of the SSCI interrogation report and the responses from the CIA and the SSCI minority by addressing the area in which, in my view, the majority report is strongest: the allegation that the treatment of detainees was far more abusive, far less controlled, and far more brutal than the CIA . . .
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The SSCI Report and Its Critics: Torturing Efficacy

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Polarization surrounding the SSCI Report (see here for Lawfare’s coverage) has been most pronounced on the efficacy of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). The Report and its supporters have proclaimed that EITs never produce useful information. Unfortunately, that pat assertion undermines the possibility of a consensus on future interrogation tactics, including a consensus that rules out . . .
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Ongoing “Covert” Training of Syrian Rebels: But Is It Still Covert . . . , And, If So, Why?

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Monday, September 22, 2014 at 8:45 AM

[Cross-Posted at Just Security]  Last week Congress approved, and the President signed, legislation that authorizes the Secretary of Defense (see section 149) to “provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups and individuals,” for three specified purposes, including “defending the Syrian people from . . .
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Senator Udall Discusses Covert Action in Syria to Train 2-3K Moderate Rebels

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Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 1:46 PM

From yesterday’s Senate Arms Services Committee Hearing (at about the 2:23 mark): Senator UDALL (NM):  And my question to you has to do with – and this is all public information, but everybody’s well aware there’s been a covert operation, operating in the region to train forces, moderate forces, to go into Syria and to . . .
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More on CIA Drone Strikes, Covert Action, TMA, and the Fifth Function

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Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 6:16 PM

Yesterday Kevin Heller and I exchanged views on the possible sources of domestic authorization for the CIA to conduct drone strikes. His two initial posts are here and here; my response is here; and the first part of Kevin’s reply (focused on whether the drone strike program counts as covert action given the traditional military . . .
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CIA Drone Strikes and the Public Authority Justification

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Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 4:01 PM

In a pair of posts (here and here), Kevin Heller at Opinio Juris explores a very interesting question: What exactly is the domestic legal foundation for the CIA’s use of lethal force given that the 2001 AUMF refers explicitly to US armed forces only? As he points out, the question matters especially in connection with . . .
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Readings: Civilian Intelligence Agencies and the Use of Armed Drones by Ian Henderson

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Friday, June 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Footnote 44 of the recently released and much-discussed OLC Awlaki memorandum is heavily redacted, but what’s left reads, in part: Nor would the fact that CIA personnel would be involved in the operation itself cause the operation to violate the laws of war. It is true that CIA personnel, by virtue of their not being part of . . .
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A Clue About the Origins of “Imminence” in the OLC Memo?

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 10:37 AM

There’s a lot to discuss about the OLC memo on the al-Aulaqi strike—including, as Ben mentioned yesterday, the origins and significance of “imminence.”  (There’s also excellent analysis over at Just Security, which I recommend to interested readers.) Throughout the OLC memo’s 41 pages, the much-scrutinized term appears several times, often as part of a phrase: “continued and . . .
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Is JSOC About to Become More Transparent on Drone Strikes?

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Friday, May 23, 2014 at 4:57 PM

One frequently sees the claim that CIA drone operations should be handed over to the military because the military is more transparent. I have frequently disparaged that argument, not because the CIA is in fact transparent but rather because direct action undertaken by JSOC isn’t transparent either. But might that change soon? According to a . . .
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NYU School of Law Event: “‘The Snowden Operation': A Victory for Privacy Rights or for Russia?”

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Friday, March 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM

  NYU School of Law hosted a debate yesterday between Edward Lucas, Senior Editor of The Economist and author of The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster—which Ben reviewed last month—and Stephen Holmes, Professor at NYU Law. The event was moderated by Ryan Goodman, also of NYU Law. Here is the description of the panel . . .
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Intelligence Squared US Debate: “The President Has Constitutional Power To Target And Kill U.S. Citizens Abroad”

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Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 9:50 PM

For the Motion: Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School Michael Lewis, Professor of Law, Ohio Northern University School of Law Against the Motion: Noah Feldman, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU National Security Project President Has Constitutional Power to Target Americans from Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates on FORA.tv The results are . . .
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SSCI v. CIA—Three Key Questions

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Senator Feinstein’s remarkable floor statement yesterday has thrown further fuel onto an already volatile mix of intelligence and oversight issues related to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s detention and interrogation report. Putting the controversy both outside and inside the SSCI about the substance of the report aside for now, the basic facts as Sen. . . .
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Did the CIA Violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by Accessing Intelligence Committee Computers?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 7:27 AM

Senator Feinstein recently claimed that the CIA may have violated the federal computer hacking statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, by searching computers used by the Intelligence Committee to conduct CIA oversight. Based on the facts we know so far, I’m skeptical of the claim that the CIA violated the statute. This post explains . . .
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Senator Feinstein’s Remarks on the CIA-SSCI Document Controversy

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Right now, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Chairman, is speaking out, on the Senate floor, about a well-publicized dispute between the CIA and the SSCI—regarding the latter’s review of documents pertaining to the CIA’s interrogation practices in the years following 9/11, and the CIA’s auditing of Committee staffers’ computer use during the review. . . .
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